Hormones run us. They are our body’s feedback signals, telling our brains what the outside world is like, and how we should act, to survive, and to thrive.
Two of the most important hormones regulating metabolism are insulin and leptin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas to control blood sugar levels, as an excess can kill us. Insulin directs sugar to: 1. be used as energy in the muscles, 2. stored as glycogen in the liver or muscles, or 3. stored as fat in fat cells. Insulin also regulates fat storage. When we have high levels of insulin in our bodies, we induce fat storage, and when we have low levels of insulin, we induce fat metabolism. This helps our body maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Leptin on the other hand is a hormone produced by our fat cells. Leptin signals our brain to metabolize fat whenever we have excess stored in our body. This is our body's way to control our food consumption, so that we don't overeat. These two hormones however, counteract each other. When we have high levels of insulin, especially from eating carbohydrates, it blocks the effects of leptin, so our body can maintain blood sugar within normal levels. Indulging in excess carbohydrates induces this cycle of insulin stimulation and fat storage. Worse, these fluctuations in blood sugar causes hunger, leading people to gorge on even more carbs. Consumption of fat on the other hand, elicits a very low insulin response, and stimulates satiety.
In this article from the New York Times, a new study revealed that people who go on a low-carb diet instead of a low-fat diet have fewer cardiovascular risks. This is a complete reversal of what has been promulgated before. It also shows that the low carb diet is more effective in reducing body fat and overall weight.
The study involved 150 racially diverse group of people who were not given restrictions to their total calorie intake but to limit their carb or fat intake for a year.
- The low-carb group lost an average of 8 pounds. They have significant reductions in body fat and improvements in lean muscle mass even when neither group changed their level of physical activity. While some people from the low fat group lost weight, they appear to have lost more muscle than fat.
- The low-carb group saw a plunge of their markers of inflammation and triglycerides and a rise in their HDL, the so-called “good cholesterol.”
- Blood pressure, total cholesterol and LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol stayed about the same for people in each group.
- Framingham risk scores, which calculates the likelihood of a heart attack within 10 years, decreased for the low-carb group while the scores for the low-fat group saw no improvement.
The study, far better and more transparent than Ancel Keys,’ shows that you can lose weight by cutting carbs without decreasing total calories consumed. For years we've been brain-washed into thinking that fat is bad. Yes, certain fats are bad - man-made ones like trans fats from vegetable oils, but overall, when chosen correctly, fat is your weight-loss friend. And in the fight against excess weight gain and optimum healthy, fat is an ally we’ve to come to terms with when eating.
By Shaun Ochia